Jeremy Corbyn has ruled out holding another Scottish independence referendum before the Holyrood elections in 2021, following SNP demands for a vote next year.
The Labour leader said he would “certainly not” consider having a ballot on Scotland leaving the UK within his first year of Government.
Mr Corbyn’s comments followed a warning from the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford that Scotland’s desire for independence is “unstoppable” and must not be blocked by the next prime minister.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Blackford pressed the case for a Scottish independence referendum and argued it would be undemocratic to prevent another vote.
Party leader Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a second independence referendum in late 2020 and has said she will write to the Prime Minister after the election demanding the power to do so.
Mr Corbyn, asked later in the show if he could give Mr Blackford a commitment for a Scottish independence referendum within the first year under a Labour Government, told Marr: “No. I can’t give him that.”
“I do not want us to spend the first year on an independence referendum,” he added, instead focusing on Labour’s pledge to invest a further £70 billion in Scotland through their planned National Investment Bank.
“I say gently to the SNP, they will have the opportunity with a Labour Government in Westminster of seeing a fair allocation of resources to Scotland, they will see an investment in Scotland that will deal with the massive health and social inequality they face.”
He ruled out a referendum before the next Holyrood election in 2021 and said: “Up until then, certainly not.”
During his interview, Mr Blackford said the SNP were “wanting to lock the Tories out of office” to prevent the UK leaving the EU, in addition to fighting for a second independence referendum.
He claimed a “move towards independence is unstoppable, it will not change whether there is a Corbyn or a Johnson Government in London”.
“Our priorities, principally, in this election is about making sure we can escape Brexit – that’s the first thing – but also securing Scotland’s right to choose its own future,” Mr Blackford said when asked about forming potential coalitions with other parties.
On the issue of securing powers to hold another Scottish independence referendum, he said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s Jeremy Corbyn or if its anyone else, whoever is prime minister has got to respect democracy and the simple fact of the matter is the SNP won the election to the Scottish Parliament in 2016 on a manifesto commitment of a referendum if there was a change of circumstances.”
He said if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats on a commitment to hold another vote “it will ill-behold any prime minister to stand in the face of democracy and the right of Scots to choose”.